Sunday 29 January 2017

Toybox REVIEW: LEGO Batman Movie Minifigure Series

As was probably the case with many collectors reading this, my first real introduction into the world of toy buying and more importantly collecting was with LEGO. From age seven to about 14 I was truly LEGO obsessed, and counted the UFO, Aquanauts, Insectoids and original Bionicle ranges among my favourites. While my LEGO buying has slowed down with age, the love for the brand never left. However the sheer variety of LEGO on offer these days - from the various movie and comic licenses to the LEGO Ideas sets and the wonderful LEGO Movie, have really ignited that dormant flame. With The LEGO Batman Movie's release imminent, it was finally time to jump back on the LEGO wagon. The various sets from the movie are also accompanied by a new wave of blind-bagged minifigures, with a total of 20 different figures (including villains scoured from the history of DC Comics) on offer.

Each minifigure comes packaged in a yellow and black bag featuring several of the range pictured on the front. While the bags do have the much-talked-about dots punched into the bottom that supposedly tell you which figure is inside, it's much easier to just feel them out as each one has some sort of identifiable piece. Better still if you have a LEGO Store nearby the staff usually sort them out or are happy to help out if you just ask and they aren't too busy. I managed to buy all of my minifigures on various visits knowing which one I'd receive thanks to them.

Also thrown in with the bag is an A3 sized flyer that features a checklist of all the characters available in the wave. On the other side is a nice graphic of Batman fighting the Joker, a guide to assembling three of the figures in the wave (why these particular three I don't know) and a sneak preview of the next wave of LEGO minifigures due to hit in May 2017.

The first of the five Batman variants in this wave is likely to be the one everyone is after the most - Lobster Lovin' Batman. After appearing in the movie trailers this suave, relaxing version of Batman who dines on only the finest of foods went down a hit with fans and collectors. Lobster Lovin' Batman comes with both a lobster and a plate featuring a lettuce  leaf and butter print. While the lobster itself can't be fixed to the plate, its more than capable of balancing and either way both items can fit comfortably in Batman's hands via the stud sockets underneath.

One thing I love about the Batman figures is how the eyes for underneath the mask are printed on a strip on the forehead, which means when unmasked it just looks like Bruce is wearing a bandanna or bandage. 

The LEGO Movie revealed that this version of Batman considers himself something of a successful musician, and Glam Metal Batman shows off his KISS inspiration. Featuring shoulder armour directly inspired by the demon himself Gene Simmons, Batman rocks the electric guitar with a mask emblazoned with a giant silver bat logo. Also included is the standard LEGO serrated black cape, which goes over the shoulder pad rather than under it.

Going from one extreme to the other, the third Batman in this line is pretty in pink and goes by the name of Fairy Batman. Not only is he sporting a rather stylish tutu (previously used in white by the series 15 Ballerina figure) but also a clear pink plastic pair of wings in place of the usual cape. This is complimented wonderfully by his fairy wand, which can smite evil just as well as any Batarang can. Best of all is Batman's completely serious facial expression, because of course dressing up like this is no laughing matter.

Next the caped crusader goes back in time as Clan of the Cave Batman! Done up in a rather fetching leather print toga and sporting a stereotypical caveman club, Batman is ready for action even in the Stone Age. This version of Batman includes a brown cape and cowl, with the cowl also sporting some battle damage marks to give it a bit more flare. 

Even a crime fighter as busy as Batman likes to take a holiday sometimes, and so rounding off the Batman variants is the utterly superb Vacation Batman. If the Batman-logo print swimsuit wasn't enough, this Batman is also decked out with flippers, a rubber ring (complete with Robin style face-mask) and a cowl with blue goggles moulded over the eyeholes. Now with the flippers attached Batman of course can't be fixed to the included display base standing up, but of course there's nothing stopping him from just sitting down on the job. And he's on holiday so why not too?

Kicking off the rest of the characters included in this assortment is Barbara Gordon, voiced in The LEGO Batman Movie by Rosario Dawson. This version of Batgirl has a rather different origin to her comics counterpart, not only appearing as a member of the police force but also rising to the rank of Commissioner much like her older self did in Batman Beyond. Barbara comes with a pair of handcuffs and pocket-sized Batsignal, while the hat and hair are a single moulded piece rather that separate. A SWAT variant of Barbara is also included in The Scuttler set.

Babs might be rising to the task as Commissioner in the movie, but that doesn't mean it's lacking the original Commissioner Gordon - her father James. Sporting a grey hairpiece and a rugged detective look, Commissioner Gordon comes with a standard LEGO walkie talkie and a Joker wanted poster. As was the case with Barbara this version of Gordon is unique to the blind bags, as the Scuttler set includes him in standard blue police attire.

Where Batman goes, the Joker isn't far behind! With the clown prince of crime's usual attire reserved for the bigger sets this variant comes in an orange Arkham Asylum jumpsuit, which is also the case with the one in the Arkham Asylum set (that version however has a different head). The Joker's only accessory is a pair of handcuffs, however the head features two different expressions - an over the top sad face and a teary smile.

Making his big debut in the LEGO Batman Movie is Robin, voice in the film by Michael Cera. As expected Robin has been reserved for the sets, but in his place a civilian version of his alter-ego Dick Grayson has been included here. Dick's goggle eyes are moulded straight onto his hairpiece, but underneath is a standard face for good measure. Dick also comes with the best accessory of the whole range - a can of the legendary Shark Repellant Batspray, complete with a no sharks symbol and "Shark Repellant" printed on the canister.

Batman isn't the only superhero that likes to feel pretty sometimes, so to compliment Fairy Batman we also have Pink Power Batgirl - done up in a bright pink outfit and sparkly cape. Interestingly, this version of Batgirl differs from the standard variant as she simply uses a domino mask rather than a full cowl. This is another figure in the wave with two different expressions - a cocky smile as well as a more serious face. A pink skirt fits nicely over the legs, and also included is a pink Batarang to fight crime with.

One of the best figures in the range is the Red Hood, originally known as being the previous identity of the man who would become the Joker but now the persona of hot-headed vigilante Jason Todd. What's particularly great about this minifigure is that while it features the opaque bell-jar head associated with the classic Red Hood, underneath is a standard minifigure head just like the mask Todd uses as his version of the character. Other cool components of this figure include his tuxedo-ed body, bow-tie clad shoulder armour, red cape and twin pistols.

As we get deeper into the wave we begin to encounter some of the more obscure entries from Batman's rogues gallery, and the Eraser is a pretty good place to start. The Eraser originally appeared way back in 1966, but has made cameo appearances in the post-Crisis universe as well as Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The Eraser features a unique headpiece with moulded ridges and tiny lifeless eyes. In addition to the eraser piece for his head he also comes with a blank "To Erase" notepad piece.

While many of Batman's more famous rogues were saved for the sets, there's some characters that LEGO just couldn't have gotten away with not putting in the minifigure wave - one of those characters is of course Harley Quinn. This is a nurse variant ready to nurse her puddin' back to full health, and as you'd expect is far more moderately dressed than the Arkham Asylum video game Nurse Harley. Harley includes a unique hairpiece moulded in red and black, together with a small hat which pegs into a small hold on the right-hand side. Her other accessory is the Joker's medical chart, which features a little "H&J" doodle inside a heart. 

Back into the world of obscure Batman villains, next we have a relatively recent entry in the form of 2000's Orca - who for simplicity's sake is shapeshifting marine biologist. Think Killer Shark but with orcas instead of sharks. Despite not having any accessories Orca is still a pretty cool little minifigure, with flippers in the place of arms and a giant orca head/back piece. LEGO enthusiasts will know this is in fact a recolour of the minifigure series 15 Shark. Orca also includes a standard LEGO headpiece, which has the throat and tongue printed on it to poke through those whale teeth.

Next we move further back in time to 1964, as Batman faces off against the Zodiac Master. A supervillain who made his mark by accurately predicting a series of disasters (which he of course orchestrated), LEGO Zodiac Master sports a costume that's very close to his original comics counterpart. His light blue bodysuit is covered in a series of gold astrological markings, and the figure includes silver plastic Cancer (Crab) and Pisces (Fish) accessories.

One of the coolest additions to the LEGO Batman range is Catman, a character who first appeared in 1963 but has since been popularised by the Secret Six comic series and writers such as Gail Simone. Though build-wise he's pretty similar to Batman there are a few subtle differences here and there, such as the facial expression/skin colour and his cowl lacking the chin strap Batman's had. Unlike the Batman figures in this range Catman also has a utility belt, which is the standard Batman's version done up in a brown plastic to match the body and cape. His accessories are two sets of Wolverine claws which can be held in the minifigure's hands.

Going back to modern villains we have March Harriet, a 2008 character co-created by Batman: The Animated Series legend Paul Dini. An associate of the Mad Hatter, a character who was previously an escort might be an odd choice for a family film but you've got to love the range of characters they've thrown into this movie. March Harriet uses the same bunny hood as the Series 7 Rabbit suit minifigure, done up in brown to match her strapless suit. The Tommy Gun is a really nice accessory, to the point that I could see collectors picking up this figure just to get a few of these pieces.

Another character that's received a fair bit of love lately is the Calculator, who recently appeared in Arrow but has regularly faced off against Oracle and the Birds of Prey as well as the Teen Titans. While the comics version of the Calculator is more of the criminal mastermind kind of character, the LEGO version has been camped up Batman 66 style. On top of his lavender bodysuit is a white computer bodysuit, featuring a removable chest panel and a helmet with "HELLO" written on it in the style of...well, a calculator. As far as these minifigures go he's probably one of the more underwhelming entries, but in terms of character alone he's an extremely cool addition.

One of my personal favourite entries and sure to be a firm favourite among Batman fans is King Tut, a professor of Egyptology and supervillain created specifically for the 1966 Batman series starring Adam West. This minifigure is absolutely jam-packed with goodies, featuring an Egyptian headdress, red fabric cape, snake-headded staff and a green snake.

Rounding off the 20-figure set is the Mime, a 1987 character so obscure she barely has a wikipedia page for me to look up information on her. A martial arts master that barely speaks, the Mime includes a soft plastic mohawk moulded in dark blue, as well as two lighting bolts - each split into two different shades of transparent blue plastic.

While not every collector is going to fork out the money for an entire set of LEGO Batman Movie minifigures, it's fair to say that LEGO have absolutely knocked it out of the park with these guys and included something for everyone. From hilarious Batman variants to alternate costumes of popular characters, obscure villains and fan favourites - there's plenty here for buyers to pick and choose from should they not feel the need to collect them all. If the LEGO Batman Movie is any bit as fun as these figures are, then it's going to be another really good year to be a LEGO fan, a Batman fan or of course a LEGO Batman fan.

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